JEFF SUPAK JANUARY 10, 2019
For the last 3 years, I have had the opportunity to help plan and organize Plant 4 Peace NOLA. I learned about this initiative from a colleague at NOLA Tree Project. Plant 4 Peace started in Ferguson, MO as an initiative to reflect and solidify togetherness after much unrest and injustice. Planting 500 trees in the St Louis region was their method to create time for reflection and to build a community that stood together.
Plant 4 Peace was adopted by Global Green, and our partners, in New Orleans with a call to do something similar. We recognized that there is a lot of unrest in the city; unrest that comes in the form of crime, poverty, flooding, etc. Some neighborhoods and the people who reside in these neighborhoods experience higher rates of these issues. While we don’t expect trees to totally solve larger issues that these neighborhoods experience, such as higher crime and poverty rates and disrepaired infrastructure (many of these issues are connected to a larger issue of institutionalized racism), it does provide for an opportunity to bring people together, for people to meet their “neighbors” and to take a moment and reflect while planting some seeds of hope and togetherness.
Trees provide a lot benefits; they help clean the air, soak up excess rainwater, cool the environment down in the summertime (ie combat the urban heat island effect) and add natural beauty. They are also planted to last and to sustain. In a way, they become a living memorial. The trees that are planted during Plant 4 Peace NOLA are not a special species. They are native trees to New Orleans. But when they are planted, we view them as a memorial for hope, peace and love that can be sustained for years to come. In some cases, they are even given name! Out in the 7th Ward, you will find a few trees named “Wild Weezy” and some with names of volunteers’ mothers and grandparents.
Plant 4 Peace NOLA is made possible by many partners NOLA Tree Project, Groundwork New Orleans and the Green Team, Healthy Community Services & Bunny Friend Neighborhood Association. In 2018, 100 trees were planted in the 7th Ward and Bunny Friend Neighborhoods.
Special shout outs go out to the Groundwork New Orleans Green Team for sharing their thoughts on peace in their communities. Also to the Welcoming Project for their students lending a hand to help plant the memorial trees located at the Autocrat. Finally, we would like to thank St Anna’s Church, the NOPD 5th District and the Autocrat Social Aid and Pleasure Club for their opening remarks.